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Big-Time Sports in American Universities Hardcover – March 7, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"This is a remarkable book. Charles Clotfelter uses the tools of policy economics (tools that he wields with the best of them) to shed light on one of the most vexing issues in higher education: Why do so many excellent universities devote so much money and attention to big-time intercollegiate sports? He presents surprising facts and original analyses, makes persuasive proposals for change, and delivers the package with an unusual and welcome combination of wit and rigor. This is must reading for university administrators, and flat out fun reading for all who are interested in universities or intercollegiate athletics." - Paul N. Courant, University of Michigan

"Charles Clotfelter has provided a valuable and remarkably well-researched assessment of the role of 'big-time' college athletics in American higher education. Bringing to bear his considerable experience in economic and social policy, he has provided an unusually well-balanced analysis of the pros and cons of including this form of commercial entertainment as a university mission, thereby resulting in a book that is an important and fascinating addition to this highly controversial subject." - James J. Duderstadt, President Emeritus, University of Michigan

"A fascinating, insightful discussion of the arms race that is big-time intercollegiate athletics. Clotfelter clarifies how this parallel universe in large universities exists essentially independent of faculty or administrative control, being instead the creature of powerful self-perpetuating groups of 'boosters.' The convincing, novel demonstration of the role of tax subsidies in supporting these operations should raise every reader's blood pressure." - Daniel S. Hamermesh, University of Texas at Austin

"This book offers an excellent discussion of the role of big-time athletics on university campuses today. Instead of either lambasting varsity athletics across the board or celebrating them uncritically, Clotfelter's persuasive data, thoughtful analysis, and balanced treatment make a strong case for acknowledging athletics as an integral part of life on many campuses and dealing straightforwardly with both the problems and the benefits this entails." - Nannerl O. Keohane, Princeton University, Former President, Duke University

"With his book Big-Time Sports in American Universities, Charles Clotfelter has done those of us who care about balancing the mission of higher education institutions with the impact of high-level college athletics an enormous favor. Providing great insights and careful analysis, Dr. Clotfelter reveals both the rationale behind 'big-time' sports programs at American universities and the consequences - good and ill - that follow. Hopefully, this fresh look at a decades-old (and uniquely American) issue will encourage and guide the on-going reform efforts aimed at finding the right balance in the costs and benefits of big-time college sports." - William Kirwan, Chancellor, University System of Maryland

"Charles Clotfelter offers an original, informative perspective on a question that has confounded scholars of sports: Why are American universities uniquely devoted to providing big-time sports entertainment? This book is crammed with new facts and analysis about intercollegiate sports, and it offers fresh insights into why college sports programs sometimes are out of control even in elite universities." - Roger Noll, Stanford University

"Finally an honest, balanced, sober, well-informed, and highly intelligent analysis of the nature, role, and impact of big-time athletics on American higher education has arrived. Clotfelter's new book, which judiciously deploys an impressive variety of data sources together with expert and original analysis, should be required reading by anyone with a genuine interest in the future of American higher education and the role and impact of big-time sports in the academy." - Harold S. Shapiro, President Emeritus, Princeton University

"If I ever wanted to educate a person who knew nothing at all about big-time sports in American universities (and there are plenty of them out there, namely 6.86 billion non-Americans on the globe, and maybe a stray Martian or two), I would start them off with Charles Clotfelter's book, Big-Time Sports in American Universities.... And, best of all, in addition to Clotfelter's sage comments, the book is replete with charts and tables of proprietary new research findings wherein he methodically demonstrates correlations, relationships and causations that sagely plot big-time sports, universities, conferences, bowls, administrators, alumni, boosters and media into a series of comprehensible concepts and conclusions that even a stray Martian would understand."

"The book offers plenty of... eye-opening statistics but is perhaps most surprising in its even-handed approach to the subject of major college athletics." - The Wall Street Journal

"Charles Clotfelter, a Duke University professor, proves to be a delightful guide on a quest to answer two questions: Why do so many universities embrace big-time sports? And what are the consequences?.... True to his academic roots - remember, economist - Clotfelter engages in a cost-benefit analysis that goes off in all kinds of surprising directions, particularly when he comes up with his own, often ingenious, ways of testing assumptions." - The Seattle Times

"Charles Clotfelter's book, Big-Time Sports in American Universities, is a masterpiece. It is the seminal work on this topic and a splendid piece of work." - Robert Atwell, President Emeritus of the American Council on Education

"... [This] remarkably well-timed book... is essential reading for anyone serious about understanding why college sports persist and what practical steps could be taken to improve them." - Thad Williamson,

Book Description

Why do so many American universities engage in commercial sports competition? Although it has been a feature of American universities for a century or more, big-time sports has little connection with the traditional aims of universities - research, teaching, and service. This book shows that big-time sports has become an important part of what many American universities do and value, explains its continued emphasis in the face of mounting problems, and argues for an honest accounting of its costs and benefits.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; First Edition edition (March 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1107004349
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107004344
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #754,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Clotfelter is the Z. Smith Reynolds Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Economics and Law at Duke University. His book, "Big-Time Sports in American Universities," was published in May 2011 by Cambridge University Press. He is also the author or coauthor of five previous books on topics including university economics, school desegregation, and state lotteries. At Duke he has served as vice chancellor and vice provost. He likes playing squash and golf, and he enjoys watching college sports.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Phelps Gates VINE VOICE on September 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are plenty of books about what's wrong with college sports, often in the "ain't-it-awful" genre, and a long article in the latest Atlantic is an indictment of the way "student-athletes" are exploited. Clotfelter's book is a more balanced account: he's an economist and he gives an excellent description of just what the costs and benefits are of big-time college sports, both tangible and intangible. And the book explains how colleges got into the entertainment business in the first place and why they're not likely to leave it any time soon. He doesn't neglect the exploitation issue, and suggests various ways in which it could be fixed (but probably won't be). His analysis has some surprises and I learned a lot.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Billy Bob Sixpack on July 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book, handsomely bound and well-edited, is a timely dissertation on college athletics and the adverse and, sometimes, positive effects of overzealous alumni support and money-grubbing business interests. With the impact of the Penn State scandal still unfolding, this book should be read by anyone vaguely interested in the future of intercollegiate athletics and student-athletes.
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Charles T. Clotfelter is a Harvard-trained economist who has often explored questions about education and public policy in America. His previously-published books, for example, include titles like Federal Tax Policy and Charitable Giving (1985), Buying the Best: Cost Escalation in Elite Higher Education (1996), and After Brown: The Rise and Retreat of School Desegregation (2004). In Big-Time Sports in American Universities, his most recent book, Clotfelter once again stays within his area of expertise, while at the same time probing yet another topic. As he puts it, this is a book “chiefly about higher education, not sports” (xiii). A lack of attention to the topic he writes about here is what created his opportunity: “Despite what I saw as abundant evidence of the larger-than-life presence of big-time college sports, serious academic research about universities rarely deals with the subject at all” (xii).

Clotfelter address “two questions about universities that operate big-time sports programs. First, why do they do it? . . . And second, what are the consequences for the universities that operate these enterprises?” The author limits his exploration to college football programs that are part of the NCAA’s elite Football Bowl Subdivision and to basketball programs in Division I (xiii). Throughout, he seeks “to describe the phenomenon of big-time college sports as it is, trying to make sense of why so many smart institutions have decided it is a worthwhile enterprise to be a part of” (15). He concludes that while “[u]niversity leaders often justify these enterprises on instrumental grounds, for their supposed ability to boost student applications and alumni donations, for example . . .
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Format: Hardcover
Professor Charles T. Clotfelter, is an economist and professor at law at Duke university. In his book Big time Sports In American Universities, he uses analytical data to approach the question of how the big time universities embrace big-time athletes. There is no doubt these days that coaches and college athletes have a positive impact on the universities' economics. They are the ones winning games and the more games they win they more fans want to buy tickets to go see them play. As a result, the school is getting the big bucks. When professor Clotfelter compare the attention from college sports to the other aspect of higher education, he blame the media for the coverage of all sporting events for college, whereas they ignore the big picture which is education first. He said when he looked at the New York Times's coverage of 58 universities with major programs and found that the paper devoted seven times more attention to sports than to other things. He even went back 40 years and then 80 years, and found the similarity of the Time's coverage, ''sports win'', he said. ''Big time sports in American universities'' does not alleviate the downside mr. Clotfelter contends, though, he does not ignore that college sports go beyond its shortcomings. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the economic impact that college sports bring to the big time universities.
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By M. Atkins on July 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is *the* definitive account by an esteemed Duke economist of why American universities front for professional sports despite more than a century of controversy and criticism. Although the book is long on data and short on solutions (his main conclusion is that at the very least universities need to admit to their addiction), the data are hard to dispute. The book is extremely well-written and engrossing. For a big sports fan like me, the story is both depressing but fascinating. Why put themselves through all the scandals and hypocrisy? Why indeed.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well-documented, scholarly report on the history and state of big college football and basketball. I learned a lot from reading this book. The analysis is presents makes sense and it is convincing. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a thoughtful look at the huge entertainment giant that college football and basketball have become. The author does a great job of present the pluses, the minuses, and the challenges ahead for the sport.
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